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ECHR ruling confirms lack of politics in Yukos case - lawmakers

September 20, 2011, 17:36 UTC+3
The European court of human rights confirmed the economic substance of the Yukos case, and the former company's shareholders are unlikely to win damages
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MOSCOW, September 20 (Itar-Tass) — The European court of human rights confirmed the economic substance of the Yukos case, and the former company's shareholders are unlikely to win damages, lawmakers of the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament in the Russian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said on Tuesday.

"The Strasbourg court confirmed the absolutely obvious fact: there was no politics in the Yukos Case. Criminal prosecution was purely economic, with the view of recovering unpaid taxes to the budget. This money was eventually used for payments under social programs. The Yukos case sobered up those in Russia who engaged in tax evasion using various schemes," member of the house committee on legislation Dmitry Vyatkin told Itar-Tass.

He noted that the citation in the ECHR's verdict regarding unfair trial was within the 'judgmental category.' "In theory, Russia may challenge the ruling, but it has no significant consequences," the lawmaker said.

It is neither the first nor the last Strasbourg court review of the Yukos case, he added.

"The Strasbourg court has again rejected political motivation in the Yukos case, despite the campaign unleashed by the pro-Western and Western media about prisoner of conscience Khodorkovsky," first deputy chairman of the committee on international affairs, deputy head of the Russian delegation at PACE Leonid Slutsky said.

Slutsky said he doubted the former Yukos shareholders would win the damages suit.

Under the ECHR's verdict, the panel of judges did not find sufficient evidence to support the allegations that the claims by Russian tax bodies against the Yukos company had been unsubstantiated and actually aimed to expropriate the company.

Earlier, the Russian Justice Ministry said the leadership of the oil giant used 22 dummy firms to avoid the payment of taxes on a tremendous scale.

However, the Strasbourg-based court's ruling said Russia had violated Yukos' right to protection of property.

The Russian authorities had violated several fundamental provisions of the European Convention on Human rights, such as Article 6 (the right to a fair trial), it said.

Former Yukos shareholders demanded a compensation from the Russian budget exceeding 98 billion dollars for illegal alienation of property by the state.

The shareholders lodged a complaint with the ECHR back in 2004. In early 2009, the court said it would consider the claim. The ECHR's Tuesday ruling, if not challenged, will become effective in three months.

Meanwhile, a ECHR official told Tass the date of review had not been set yet.

Chairman of he house committee on international affairs, head of the Russian delegation at PACE Konstantin Kosachyov said the ECHR's ruling on Yukos, despite the criticism, should be regarded as positive.

"Despite the fact that the verdict contains much criticism of Yukos case procedures, this decision can unequivocally be called positive," Kosachyov said.

The key point is the court's conclusion that there is no political element in the criminal proceedings against the former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and former MENATEP director Platon Lebedev.

"I'm pleased that the ECHR found no signs of politics in the Yukos case. It's a very important conclusion which puts an end to numerous speculations. The pressure has been tremendous, but the court has stood its ground," Kosachyov said, adding that the ECHR acted as "a legal, not political body."

Speaking about the consequences of the verdict by the Strasbourg court, the head of the committee promised that Russia "would examine all the recommendations to eliminate procedural violations."

The issue of awarding compensation to Yukos shareholders is outside of the competence of the Strasbourg court, he added.

Government representative at top judicial bodies Mikhail Barshchevsky called the ECHR's ruling a victory for Russia. "It's unquestionable victory; you cannot but agree with it," he told Tass in comments on the ruling.

He expressed the opinion that the statute of limitation procedures belong to the competence of national legislation. "it's not an issue to be regulated by the European convention on human rights," Barshchevsky said.

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